With two new wings in the mix and an outside centre who’s played just one Test, it is up to the 26-year-old De Allende to give direction at the back. Thankfully he is back in form, like he was in 2014/15, but he now needs to make the 12 jersey his own. Montpellier-based Frans Steyn’s future participation for the Boks has to be questioned and Andre Esterhuizen is still a rookie, so De Allende needs to take charge.
His hard, straight-running will be key, but his off-loading also needs to be good to keep the English on their toes. He’s also going to have his work cut out keeping England skipper Owen Farrell in check. It’s a big day and a big job for the South African No 12.
Faf de Klerk
After being the new hot-shot No 9 in 2016, the former Lions man was ignored by former coach Allister Coetzee last year, but new boss Rassie Erasmus believes De Klerk can be a world star for his national team.
The now Sale-based scrumhalf has a huge opportunity to build a career at nine for the Boks, but performing at a high standard each week is imperative. If he gets it right today the Boks will win.
De Klerk is a game-breaker and match-winner. He’ll be a handful with ball in hand, but it’s his kicking game that will determine whether he walks off the field with a tick behind his name. His duel with Ben Youngs will be fascinating to watch.
The veteran No 8 said earlier this week he was “lus” (keen) to play for the Boks again. Well, he must now walk the talk and deliver a knockout performance for his team. In the absence of key breakdown man hooker Malcolm Marx, Vermeulen will be tasked with getting stuck in at the breakdowns and winning turn-overs and penalties for the Boks.
He’ll also be required to carry the ball over the gainline and get his side on the front foot. And let’s not forget the balls he’ll be asked to win at the back of the line-out. At 31 and with 39 caps to his name, he is a leader up front and today has to show he is still worth backing for Test rugby.
In the absence of the injured Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager, and with Pieter-Steph du Toit on the bench, the role of hard-man in the tight-five has fallen on rookie Snyman, who’ll be on debut.
The 2.06m tall lock, who tips the scales at 120kg, is fully deserving of his call-up after producing quality performances for the Bulls. He has a massive role to play today, firing up the pack and being a first-receiver to get the Boks over the advantage line... everything about him screams Bakkies Botha.
Snyman faces a huge test going up against seasoned pro Maro Itoje, but the new Springbok is a wonderful specimen who has a chance to really announce himself to world rugby today.
Forget Siya Kolisi, the new wings, Snyman, De Klerk... the man who’ll be under the most pressure today will be Mbonambi. The fact he’s only played a handful of minutes after missing months of action because of a burst appendix and has to fill the void left by Marx has many questioning his selection.
It’s a big ask but the 27-year-old has a big heart and a big motor and will relish his opportunity to have the No2 on his back. He’s a livewire in the loose and he’ll busy himself around the rucks and mauls, but where Mbonambi needs to shine today is in the line-outs... hit his targets and he’ll get a high mark behind his name.
That’s all Erasmus will be asking for.